A couple of weeks ago I picked up an Agfa Silette Pronto camera for a very decent price. It was CLA’d and re-upholstered in blue leather. Altogether, it was a deal too good to pass up. So, I didn’t, and I am glad I went ahead with the purchase.
First, what prompted me? Price, in part; but also the seller is a great guy. Another prompt was the pure simplicity of the Agfa Silette. All you need is to do is figure out your exposure and distance, based on your film and your light. The “Sunny 16” rule applies here, along with guestimating the distance between you and the subject being photographed. A few adjustments, and you are ready to roll. And, if you know the basic rules of photography, you almost cannot go wrong.
The Agfa Silette was produced over many years, with many models. I believe mine is one of the first ones, as it is pretty simple. Exposures are limited to bulb, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200. All focusing is done in the zone system – you guess how far away your focal interest is, and turn the dial on the lens for distance. F/stops are 3.5, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0, 11.0, and 16.00. You also have to set the exposure counter manually each time you load the film. The lens is an Agfar Apotar triplet, 45mm, f3.5. There is a self-timer on the lens, and a PC socket for flash. As a leaf shutter, it is supposed to work at all speeds, but I am not a flash person, so cannot vouch for that, but I expect it does. The flash sits in the cold shoe on top of the camera. That’s it.
In the U.S., this same camera was marketed as the Ansco Memar. The video above is full of good information.
Because there is a lot of information about the Agfa Silette on the internet, I am not going to write up all its specs. Instead, what I do want to say it is an absolutely easy camera to use if you are familiar with manual cameras at all. If you get one, and want to learn about it, the manual is available at butkus.org.
The Silette fits easily into your hands. It’s not too big, too small, too heavy. Probably the biggest drawback is the viewfinder – it rests above the lens, so you need to move down a bit lower than you think is necessary from the frame you see. The knob on the film canister side of my camera is a bit tricky – I have to pinch the knob before I pull it up, but now that I am aware of this, it is easy to load. Rewinding the film uses the same knob, not a crank, which is a bit awkward, but easy enough. Loading film is simple, too; just make sure to engage the sprockets in the film and insert the lead into the take-up spool. Give it a few exposures to make sure it is winding on correctly. And, remember to set your film counter!
I used UltraMax 400 as the first roll through the camera. Images were sharp and clear, whether I focused at 3 feet (day pack image) or at infinity. My guestimations worked out – I used the Sunny 16 rule for 100 iso film. The latitude of the Ultramax was just fine. A few pictures straight out of the camera, first.
And now some with post-processing in LR and On1. Detail is good, colors are rich with good lighting and exposure. I even made a panorama out of a series of images for the first image, and cannot complain about the camera’s performance at all.
Altogether, if you find a working model, get it. It’s a really nice camera – better than a point and shoot in some ways, as you make choices. The Silette I purchased is a really lovely camera, and I know that I am going to totally enjoy its simplicity and functionality. Check out Flickr and the internet to see what this little gem can do!